"Today, we ship store discrete as well as to DCs and crossdock facilities,” Buck explains. “Quick turnaround is a demand now, but we also had to determine what types of product we’d be processing in the future, the dimensions, what categories, and how those characteristics would differ from what we’re doing now. We had to build a material handling system that could accommodate all those types of distribution channels. Not only did we have to describe what our business would be like in three to five years, but we also had to make sure the system wouldn’t inhibit our growth. Liberty has grown an average of 25 percent every year for the past five years. In 2002, our growth was 30 percent.
“Retailers are going to smaller case packs to improve their turns in the store, so we had to determine the type of rollers and the type of belt conveyor to handle smaller, lighter-weight packages. There had to be enough flexibility in the conveyor and sortation systems to handle boxes measuring six inches and weighing one pound or cases measuring 36 inches and weighing 20 pounds.”
Liberty’s new DC in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a consolidation of four facilities that were located in Greensboro. It serves stores in the eastern half of the country, as well as international. The data Liberty has collected in its years of servicing these stores was critical to achieving a quick ROI on its new material handling systems.
“We were hands-on in the design of the system as well as the software,” Buck adds. “Siemens Dematic knows those very well, but we were interfacing a tremendous amount of data from our systems to its RapidRoute zone-routing software. That was a critical success factor. We had a half dozen conference calls where we spent a couple hours plowing through the details of how the code was going to work and how it was going to be programmed.
“Our business is still growing and our customers are seeing world-class customer service out of this facility. Our plan was for a two-year payback from this system, but it has already paid for itself in the year and a half it’s been up.”
In addition to Siemens Dematic, Liberty had the following suppliers: Carter & Burgess, architectural engineering; W&H Systems Inc., conveyors; Beaver Materials Handling Co., racking; Contech Systems Inc., conveyor controls; FYX Consulting and Geac, System 21, WMS configuration.